Today, let’s discuss one of the latest Facebook memes currently being spread by a particular subset of the site’s membership. The headline is California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines, Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated” and it’s attributed to a site called VacTruth.com (among others). You are more than encouraged to read the full article linked above. I’ll wait because I’m about to pick it apart and tell you why this is the largest load of horse manure you’ve seen since Biff ran into that truck in Back to the Future.
I’ll summarize for those in a hurry. It tells the tale of the Downing-Powers family of Needles, California whose 5.5 month-old son, Michael, died after being given too many vaccines. It seems he was taken late for his 4-month check-up, but too early for his 6-month, so the doctor decided to give him both sets of vaccinations in one sitting. Michael died, his body was cremated at the hospital, and the family was never given the coroner’s report as to the cause of death.
So why does this heartbreaking story deserve space on this blog? Because it’s pure, grade-A, fresh-from-the-field bullshit.
What is True?
Every good lie needs a coating of truth to make palatable. There is a White Pages entry for Downing-Powers on Elm Street in Needles, CA. The Colorado River Medical Center is indeed just a couple of blocks away. Those are the only two facts from the entire article I could verify.
Google search results bring back only an incestuous circle-jerk of anti-vax and conspiracy sites all citing each other in a dubious round-robin of non-credible, slanted sources. The only non-anti-vax hits in the results are gullible, Facebook postings and dangerous, fund-raising campaigns.
In a Land Far, Far Away
There is no mention of the event in the local news. Searching the Mohave Valley Daily News site yields zero results. Where is the local media? If this story was about a coroner’s office stonewalling grieving parents, wouldn’t the first place they turned be the local media? However, if this is a concocted story meant to support anti-vax claims, why involve the locals? A local investigation would only torpedo the so-called facts. The lack of a local source for the story is glaring.
Follow the Money
There is more than one online fund-raising campaign for the family though they never appear to have asked for any money. The administration of these campaigns aren’t local to the Needles, CA area, either. One is based as far away as Virginia. I’m skeptical that any money donated will ever reach the Downing-Powers family.
While we’re on the money trail, where is the law suit? In a country were we sue dry cleaners for damaged pants, an egregious act such as this should have lawyers salivating to take the case. There is no mention of any legal action against the doctor, the hospital, or the coroner.
A Mother’s Plea
The section of the article claiming to be in the mother’s own words sounds nothing like a grieving parent. It is, however, sprinkled with cues and code words that are the hallmarks of anti-vax sites around the net.
For example, “After the shots, he didn’t have a fever or a low grade one.” Regardless of the awkward grammar, “low-grade fever” is often used by anti-vaxxers as proof that vaccines are not harmless.
“I started blaming my self and still do because I never took the time…” This is a typical reaction by parents when their child dies. It is also a carefully constructed sentence designed to appeal to parental guilt for having needles jabbed into their baby’s arm. It stands out as an obvious ploy to get fence-sitters to come down on the side of anti-vaccination.
“I went the doctor’s office recently and found out the nurse that injected Matthew is no longer working there. I was told she got fired because she didn’t know what she was doing when giving vaccines.” Wow! That doctor’s staff just violated about a dozen HIPAA and employment laws. Who in their right mind would tell a client such specific information about an employee’s firing, especially when it could be used to fuel an explosive, in not class-action, law suit? Besides, it’s not the nurse who decides what vaccines to give. The nurse only executes the injection authorized by the doctor. “She didn’t know what she was doing” only tells us she didn’t know how to perform an injection, something taught in year one of nursing school, and something even I have become quite adept at after assisting my wife with her home-health needs.
Much of the mother’s account is taken up with her exasperation over not getting the autopsy results. By law, coroner’s reports in California are public records. If the report exists (see #2, below), it is a simple thing to write, fax, or personally request these public records. The multiple, frustrated attempts to obtain the report make no sense unless we are being lead to believe there is a cover-up. (Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what we’re being lead to believe.) The article title already planted the seeds of conspiracy with “Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated.”
The final paragraphs, still written as if they are a plea from a grieving mother, switch gears too abruptly. They begin by urging people to fight pending state legislation and end with this clear, anti-vaxxer appeal “Why do mild cases involving the measles get reported all over the news, but not babies dying after getting the MMR shot or other vaccinations?” First, measles is not a mild disease. It kills 2.6 million people, mostly children, every year. It blinds, deafens, and cripples millions more. Second, the news doesn’t report death from vaccines because it rarely happens and they’re just not looking for it. Someone needs to bring it to their attention and, in this case, no one has. This poor woman has just indicted herself in the complacent cover-up of the silent vaccine killer conspiracy.
Other Red Flags
- No doctor would combine 4 and 6-month vaccines. That would be medical malpractice and no doctor would expose their business to being bankrupted by a law suit for such a blatantly illegal procedure.
- The infant’s death supposedly took place in October 2013. Sixteen months is a long time to wait before going public. It’s also just long enough for the coroner’s autopsy report to be archived off-line and not available on the San Bernardino Sheriff’s website.
- The article is laced with bad grammar and forced-fed with anti-vax slogans. Even the mother’s signature is wonky. “Love Your Momma, [line break] Crystal Downing-Powers.” That is an imperative statement, not a closing of a letter. It should rightly be, “Love, [line break] Your Momma, Crystal Downing-Powers.” Still, what mother uses her full name when addressing a child?
- This gem that is in no way something a grieving mother would say: “It is beyond disturbing that bought politicians think they can choose what gets injected into our children. They don’t care about your child’s health. Clearly many are dying and getting injured from these vaccines and they turn a blind eye.” County and State health concerns are usually based on scientific research and reviewed by doctors hired to do due diligence when recommending statewide vaccine and other medical guidelines. They certainly do care about health and are apolitical in their recommendations. Also, many are not dying or being injured from vaccines. The vast majority of vaccinated people lead healthy, happy lives free from the worry of catching a deadly disease.
- “There are a lot more parents out there like me. Some don’t come forward due to [sic] fact they are afraid of what people would say. Sometimes people can be really cruel and not understand what parents like me go through.” Besides that grammatically reading like a caveman grunted it out, it is clearly designed to throw down the conspiracy gauntlet. We are supposed to believe there is a vast sea of dead and injured children in America whose deaths are being covered up by Big Pharma. The same Big Pharma that profits less than a dollar per vaccination. Furthermore, we are to believe in this conspiracy because websites selling us homeopathic snake oils, gluten-free water substitutes, and Jenny McCarthy tee-shirts are telling use it’s all about the money. Well, that much I believe.
- This shining star, off-set as its own paragraph in the middle of recounting the encounter with the doctor’s office, “I want to tell other parents, they say vaccinations are safe, but in reality, they aren’t.” Therein lies the crux of the article. It’s not about justice for a grieving family. It’s not about government incompetency. It’s not about medical malpractice. It’s about the dangers of vaccines. We are to believe that this family is not seeking justice for their son’s death. They just want to get the word out that vaccines are dangerous. Buy a bridge, anyone?
This story holds about as much water as Noah’s colander. It is a poorly, fictionalized account of an event that cannot be proven nor is any attempt made to prove the so-called facts presented. We all like a good story, especially when it reinforces our established beliefs. That is what this is, a story to give anti-vaxxers something to cite when they’re doing their “research.” It is less believable than Wakefield’s MMR-causes-autism report.
If you will excuse me, I have to go park my car in the huge holes in this article. If it turns out that I’m just an old, hardhearted, skeptical curmudgeon and I’m completely wrong about all this, I’ll eat a pizza.
If all that wasn’t enough, you can watch me rant about this on the Youtubes.
This story that predates the article in question by 2 months has eerily similar circumstances, but the setting is South Africa. Oddly, it was apparently reported by the same site, VacTruth.com as the current story. http://www.activistpost.com/2013/08/five-month-old-baby-dies-just-days.html and the original from vactruth.com http://vactruth.com/2013/08/17/baby-dies-after-8-vaccines/